Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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“The proclamation of the Gospel is the reason for and the mission of the Church.” Pope Benedict XVI

As the Church goes down through history it not only affects history it is affected by history. The most devastating effect of history on the Church happened in the 4th century when the Roman Emperor Constantine wed the Church to the State. This marriage was good but it was also bad.

The good was that the Roman Empire enabled the Gospel, so contrary to human nature, and preached by such simple men, to spread through out the then known world. The bad was that it united the Church to the State, the home to the basilica, the altar to the throne, the crown of thorns to the Tiara, the dusty sandals to red shoes, the meek and humble Jesus to the material wealth and power of the Holy Roman Empire, the love which Jesus said is the fulfillment of the law to laws and regulations, dogmas and infallibility, Inquisitions and excommunications, Crusades and ethical and financial scandals.

Several attempts have been made down through the centuries to annul this marriage of Church to State but with little success. In the 16th century the Protestants tried to reform the Church. This attempt resulted in the Council of Trent.

In the 20th century John XXIII also tried to reform the Church. He said, “The Church is always in need of reformation” He also said, “Open the windows and let some fresh air into the Church.” This attempt resulted in Vatican II

In 21st century Pope Benedict XVI’s butler reportedly steals confidential papers revealing scandals and corruption in the Curia and leaks them to the press. He retires as Pope because he is convinced that “God wants me to do this.” He intends to spend the rest of his life “praying for the Church.”

Pope Francis is elected to succeed him. A month after his election, he sets up an advisory board of eight cardinals to help him govern the Church and reform the Curia saying “Those who have power are narcissists…the court is the leprosy of the Papacy.”

He sets up another commission to advise him on how to reform the Vatican bank, ordered tighter supervision of the financial institute and set up a third commission of external experts to advise him on economic affairs, improve transparency and enforce accounting principles. “Despite the slowness, the infidelity, the errors and sins it committed, and might still commit against its members, the Church, trust me, has no other meaning and goal but to live and witness Jesus.” (La Republica 9/11/13) He then writes the Encyclical “The Joy of the Gospel.” When asked to judge some ones moral action he said, “Who am I to judge?” Many Catholics were surprised. But he was only saying what has always been the official teaching of the Catholic Church. God alone is the judge. “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to the merits of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10) Read the Last Judgment (Matt. 25: 31-46), the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.

It is the official teaching of the Catholic Church that: one’s honest conscience is the proximate norm of morality. The Church can tell us what is a material, objective sin but only God and the individual can know what is a formal, subjective sin.

Pope Francis seems to be on his way to reform the Church and bring it back to the Gospel because “The proclamation of the Gospel is the reason for and the mission of the Church.”



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